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LETTER: Rural roads left out of Saanich safety improvements

We echo the mayor’s celebration of cycling and pedestrian improvements, and his safety reminders in his Aug. 4 letter “Saanich walks the talk on safety improvements.”

However, from the rural perspective, Saanich is not yet ‘walking the talk.’

Crosswalks, leading pedestrian intervals and sidewalks are not likely to be installed on our narrow, winding, shoulderless rural roads, often with good reason. Yet rural vulnerable users need safe and comfortable passage.

The timely solutions for these rural roads must include speed reduction and traffic calming interventions.

After over five years of local advocacy, Livable Roads for Rural Saanich again offers concrete examples demonstrating the unmet needs.

Although the fatality-driven Prospect Lake Road safety assessment brought a section of speed reduction and a one-lane choke, retaining the default 50 km/h on the whole corridor undermines these benefits. There remains no strong consistent message that this road demands a slower speed to be safe for all.

The 2022 intersection at PLR, Sparton and West Saanich includes amenities between Whitehead Park and the Community Hall on Sparton. However, nothing is planned on residential roads used by cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians such as Wallace, Oldfield, southern Old West and the rest of Sparton. Also, to no avail, we have asked for Saanich to work with Central Saanich on road safety for people outside of vehicles on the Oldfield/Old West corridor, impacted by the Keating industrial area.

Saanich’s welcome 30 km/h speed reduction pilot will benefit unlined roads, but not the lined roads really needing the help of speed reduction.

Rural Saanich paving projects have not brought increased help for vulnerable users. Repaving on Oldfield and Brookleigh resulted in horses losing the small amount of gravel they previously relied on. Paving on Old West Saanich could have incorporated some signage for cyclists to ‘take the lane’ but did not. Advocacy from the undersigned groups stopped the installation of dangerous shoulder rumble strips on Burnside Road West, but no vulnerable user amenities were added.

Saanich’s Active Transportation Plan does not address rural needs. While acknowledging urban improvements, we ask for reduced speed limits on rural collector roads to start addressing vehicle and vulnerable user conflicts in rural Saanich, an area which offers so much to us all.

Pam Harrison, Dean Murdock and Corey Burger

Livable Roads for Rural Saanich/Better Mobility Saanich/Capital Bike